By Claire Kowalchik
Protein provides the building blocks of muscle—lean, calorie-burning muscle that enables you to do everything you do, from going up and down stairs, to cruising the Curves Circuit, to participating in your local 5K for heart disease. And protein comes in all shapes, tastes, and textures: meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, nuts, dairy, and even grains. Here’s how to sort through the options for the ones that build lean muscle and good health.

Not All Proteins Are Created Equal
The amino acids that make up protein are what your body uses to build muscle and other tissue. Scientists have identified 20 amino acids that you need, and of those, your body can synthesize all but nine. These nine are called essential amino acids, and you must get them from food. A protein that contains all of the essential amino acids is called a complete protein.

Animal foods—meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy products all deliver complete proteins, providing all the essential amino acids. That may be great when it comes building muscle, but all animal products also come with saturated fat, which is not so great for heart health. Saturated fat from food raises blood levels of cholesterol and triglycerides.

Plant proteins such as beans, edamame (soy beans), and certain grains generally are not sources of complete protein, but, they are very low in in saturated fat, and stay that way if you prepare them in a heart healthy manner.

“While complete proteins might seem ideal, because they provide all essential amino acids, they are higher in saturated fat than incomplete proteins,” says Courtney Lambrow, nutritionist for Curves. “For this reason, it is important to consume a combination of both and to focus on the leanest choices.”

The Best Heart-Healthy Options
Whether you’re a meat or veggie lover, there are plenty of good proteins to choose from. Among the animal proteins, the American Heart Association recommends these low-saturated-fat options:
• Fish and shellfish
• Poultry minus the skin (choose breast meat over higher-fat legs and wings)
• Lean beef (round, sirloin, chuck, or loin; choose “choice” or “select” grades over “prime”)
• Lean ground beef with no more than 10% calories from fat
• Lean pork (tenderloin or loin chop)
• Lean cuts of bison
• Wild game such as venison, rabbit, pheasant, or wild duck, which are lower in fat than animals raised for market (duck or goose)

Eggs provide high-quality protein—one that is complete and is easily digested and used by your body. One large hard-boiled egg contains 78 calories, 6 grams of protein, and only 1.6 grams of saturated fat. Though eggs are high in cholesterol, studies show that eating them does not raise blood cholesterol levels in most people.

Do you remember when cottage cheese seemed to be one of the staples of dieters everywhere? Well, there’s good reason. A half-cup serving of low-fat, 1 percent cottage cheese has only 81 calories, 1 gram of saturated fat, and a whopping 14 grams of muscle-building (and hunger-satisfying) protein.

Greek yogurt is another great choice. One 6-ounce container of plain, nonfat yogurt contains 100 calories, 17 grams of protein, and no saturated fat.

Consider mixing some cooked grains and maybe a touch of honey into that Greek yogurt. Balancing animal with plant foods rich in protein not only reduces saturated fat in your diet, it helps you add in a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients that are abundant in these foods. Beans, soy, and tofu come to mind when we think about vegetarian sources of foods but most grains, especially whole grains, are also a good source of protein.

Quinoa and amaranth, two “ancient grains” that have gained popularity in recent years contain complete protein. A ¾ to 1-cup serving of cooked amaranth or quinoa delivers roughly 6 grams of protein and 166 calories.

From the traditional, old-fashioned king of protein—steak—to fish to beans to grains, there are plenty of lean proteins to help you build lean muscle and a healthy heart.



By Claire Kowalchik
For fitness from head to toe, the Curves Circuit does the job, it strengths every major muscle group in your body, but if want to turn up the toning, consider the Arms, Core, and Legs Class† which provides an extra boost to—you guessed it—your arms, core, and legs with added strength moves that you’ll do between machines. Here are X reasons why you might just want that extra boost.

For Your Arms
They do so much for you. Do this class for them.

1. Prevent the hunch. “Most women store stress in their arms and shoulders,” says Hannah Karrass, Vice President of Programs and Science for Curves. “A stressful event equals the classic shoulder hunch.” You want arms that are both strong and flexible.

2. Make lifting and carrying easier. When you have strong arms, everything you do with them—hauling groceries, picking up your grandkids, shoveling snow—becomes easier.

3. Tone your arms. Come to this class consistently and follow a healthy nutrition plan to help tone and sculpt your upper arms.

For Your Core
“Simply said, a strong core is your common denominator of strength,” Karass points out.

4. Stand—and walk–steady on your feet. A strong core provides 360 degrees of support for better balance.

5. Make everything easier. Your core is at the center of body movement. Whether you bend forward or backward, to the left or to the right. Rotate left, rotate right, your core is involved. A strong core helps you pick up the package that was delivered to your door, get up from a chair, and did we say shovel snow?

6. Help beat back pain. Not only do weak back muscles make you vulnerable to lower back problems, weak abs can set you up for strain. By strengthening the entire circuit of muscles around your middle—front, sides, and back—you can prevent one of the most common complaints.

7. Enjoy a slimmer silhouette. By strengthening your core muscles and following a healthy nutrition plan, you can tighten your tummy. In addition, a strong core improves your posture, and when you stand taller, you look thinner.

For Your Legs
Oh the places you’ll go with strong legs.

8. Avoid or alleviate arthritis of the knee. Strong quads (front of the thighs) and hamstrings (back of the thighs) help to support your knees and take stress off the joints, which can not only help prevent arthritis and injuries to the knee but also relieve some of the pain if you have arthritis.

9. Play better. Strengthen your legs and you’ll be game for a game of kickball with your grandkids or to run a 5K for breast cancer or ski down a mountain. When you are fit from head to toe, a world of fun and adventure is open to you.


By Claire Kowalchik
Want a strong heart? One that’s able to power you through a long, healthy, and happy life? Make a date—several dates—with Curves. Strength training has a remarkable ability to tackle four key risk factors for heart disease: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and insulin resistance. And, when done in a circuit like Curves, you also get a heart-pumping, calorie-burning cardio workout. Check it out.

Strength training torches fat and helps you drop pounds
Muscle is active even when you’re not, meaning that it burns calories while you’re watching Downton Abbey. Add more muscle; burn more calories, including fat calories. Studies have shown that a 3-pound gain in lean muscle may result in roughly a 4-pound loss in fat. More significantly, research shows that with resistance training, visceral fat in the abdominal area–a big risk factor for heart disease–is reduced.

Of course, resistance training itself consumes calories, but it also creates an after-burn effect. Once you’ve stopped exercising, your body burns calories as it restores all systems back to normal. Next begins the process of repairing micro-damage and rebuilding muscle, which boosts calorie-burn for three days post-workout, says Wayne Wescott, PhD, professor of exercise science at Quincy College.

Strength training helps lower resting blood pressure
Research shows that regular resistance workouts help lower blood pressure—either systolic (the upper number, which measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart contracts), diastolic (the bottom number, which measures pressure between heart beats) or both. A 2009 study involving 1600 participants, age 21 to 80, found that combined strength and aerobic exercise performed three times a week significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure.

Strength training may help improve your cholesterol profile
Study results are mixed regarding the effect of resistance training on cholesterol. The American College of Sports Medicine reports that though the effect on total cholesterol is minimal, HDL (good cholesterol) levels increase with regular strength workouts. Aerobic exercise appears to produce greater improvements in cholesterol, and remember, at Curves you get both a strength and cardio workout in one.

Regular exercise also improves your ratio of good LDLs to bad LDLs. Yes, you read that right. Not all LDL molecules are bad: some are small, and they are particularly damaging, others are large and less harmful. Studies show that exercise increases large LDL molecules while decreasing the small, harmful ones.

Strength training enhances insulin response
Diabetes and prediabetes are significant risk factors for heart disease, and regular resistance training in combination with weight loss can help you manage diabetes and even reverse prediabetes. Muscle is your body’s number one consumer of blood sugar, points out Timothy Church, MD, MD, MPH, PhD, professor of preventative medicine at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. Strength-training builds a bigger consumer.

“The immediate effect of exercise is to help control blood sugar for 24 to 48 hours post-workout as muscle cells pull glucose from your blood to replenish spent stores,” says Church. As you continue to exercise regularly, your muscle cells become more sensitive to insulin, meaning less insulin is required to usher glucose into those cells. In addition, research has found that during exercise, your muscles take glucose out of your blood through a second pathway that does not require insulin. Add these two effects together, and if you are taking insulin or one of the medicines that promote insulin secretion, regular exercise may lead to a reduction in your medication.

The Curves Circuit produces some pretty powerful cardiovascular results, so work your muscle for the most important muscle in your body—your heart.